Placeholder canvas

Explainer | Watchdogs Alert Against Changes to the Broadcasting Law

On 7 September, the ruling party deputies proposed changes to the Laws on Broadcasting and Electronic Communications. If adopted, they would expand the scope of Georgian National Communication Commission’s (GNCC) oversight. While the officials cite the need to align Georgia’s legislation with the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), press advocates worry that the new legislation may be used to target the media.

What is Proposed?

As it stands, the GNCC monitors whether broadcasters violate the procedural norms of self-regulation but it does not have the mandate to interfere in content.

The proposed legislation would increase the GNCC’s scope of regulation of the Georgian media environment by expanding the GNCC’s oversight of content through several new provisions.

As it stands, the GNCC monitors whether broadcasters violate the procedural norms of self-regulation but it does not interfere in content-related matters.

Significantly, the new legislation changes how disputes relating to slander are handled by adding a “right of reply” provision which will allow citizens who believe that false and defamatory information was disseminated about them by a media outlet, to complain about it directly to the GNCC.

Currently, in such cases, a citizen has the right to address the self-regulatory broadcasting authority, the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, and the Court.

Notably, the law will also mean that the Commission’s rulings will enter into force as soon as they are reached, regardless of whether the decision is being disputed in Court.

Driving the news: Press Freedoms Concerns

The Media Advocacy Coalition, a press freedoms watchdog, commented on the proposal, warning the amendments “contain risks of restriction of the freedom of expression and will worsen the media environment in Georgia.”

It raised several concerns:

  • Meaningful participatory review is curtailed by publishing rather voluminous amendments on 13 September and scheduling the first hearing on 16 September. The Association Agreement says the implementation of EU legislation should be “inclusive and serve to improve the media environment.”
  • Risks of abuse increase by not staying the execution of GNCC decisions if the case is challenged in court. The coalition noted, that in a similar case, related to the e-communications legislation, the Venice Commission – a multilateral constitutional law watchdog – expressly indicated that the administrative rulings shall be suspended before the Court delivers its verdict.
  • Risks for freedom of expression are created by introducing the “right-of-response” provisions, and by transferring the matters related to hate speech and incitement to terrorism, from the domains of self-regulation, to the domain of regulation by GNCC. Media Advocacy Coalition argues this is of particular concern given the track record of GNCC in reaching politically biased decisions.

Another watchdog, “Media Ombudsman” raised similar concerns.

Mounting pressure

Such concerns are largely based on past attempts by the government to introduce controversial amendments to the Law on Broadcasting in 2018, and the GNCC’s own track record, of interference in broadcasting content in favor of the ruling party.

Most recently, the GNCC ruled against three opposition TV Stations – Mtari Arkhi TV, Formula, and TV Pirveli – for airing a promotional clip of the “Going Home to Europe” civil movement, which called on citizens to take part in a June 24 pro-European rally in front of the Georgian Parliament. 

From our archive:

2017-2018 amendments to the Broadcasting Law

2020 amendments

Hindering opposition-minded broadcasters


Back to top button